EDITORIAL: New twists to the plot

We thought that there were already enough sides to the fisheries complex story in Barbuda but then the Government’s Chief of Staff, Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst released the post-Cabinet briefing notes and new twists were added to the plot.  

According to the release, the keys, which control the electricity and water, have been stolen. The release refers to it as “unlawful taking,” but that equates to stolen in our books.  Not only that, the special fuse which would allow the power to flow in the building was also “unlawfully removed.” How and when did this happen? No one is sure or, at least, no one is saying, but many are asking how could the theft have taken place if the police were occupying the building? What brazen person would walk into the temporary police headquarters on Barbuda and remove the fuse? We don’t know the answers to any of these questions so we will wait for this to unfold.

The report also said that, “The law enforcement personnel have been sent to keep the peace and to safeguard government’s property on the sister isle.” That is a very interesting statement because Prime Minister Gaston Browne stated that the Acting Police Commissioner Rodney was solely responsible for the first police contingent that caused the initial confrontation. Was he also responsible for the latest deployment? Is Rodney the sole instigator of the deployments to safeguard government’s property on the sister isle? There must have been a trigger to cause the Acting Commissioner to think that the property needed safeguarding. What or who was that trigger?

Moving along, the release gets into some murky waters when it refers to portions of the 1976 Barbuda Local Government Act, specifically CAP 44, Part 5, Section: 18.1, as conferring “dubious authority” to the Barbuda Council over a portfolio of interests. We mentioned this Act before, and the language appears to be fairly concise and clear, but we are no legal experts, so maybe someone more versed in law can assist the nation with understanding. 

First, let’s refer to the highest law of the land, the Antigua and Barbuda Constitution.  Chapter 10, Miscellaneous, Local Government, states, “There shall be a Council for Barbuda which shall be the principal organ of local government in that island.”  It further states, “Parliament may alter any of the provisions of the Barbuda Local Government Act, 1976, specified in schedule 2 to this Constitution (which provisions are in this section referred to as “the said provisions”) in the manner specified in the following provisions of this section and in no other manner whatsoever.”

The long and short of it is, the 1976 Barbuda Local Government Act is enshrined in the 1981 Constitution, and there are specific areas where Parliament has authority and there are specific areas where the local Barbuda government (i.e. Barbuda Council) has authority. So, we will now go back to the 1976 Act. We will have both documents posted for easy review on antiguaobserver.com.

The so-called “dubious authority” is laid out under “Part V,” “Functions and Powers of the Council. 18.1 states, “The Cabinet may, save as respects the matters specified in subsection (2) of this section, give general or special directions to the Council as to the policy the Council should follow in the exercise of the powers and functions of the Council under this Act or any other law.” The off-limits subsection (2) lays out responsibilities and duties of the Council in the exercise of its powers and functions. As we follow the bouncing ball, 18.4 states, “Subject to the provisions of subsection (1) of this section and without prejudice to the generality of the other provisions of this section, it shall, further to the provisions of subsection (2) of this section, be the duty of the Council – (c) to administer fisheries.” It is apparent that since the fisheries complex forms an integral part of the fisheries industry, the Barbuda Council believes that it holds administrative authority. On the other hand, the government obviously believes that claim of authority to be dubious.

If your head is spinning, then hang on because we haven’t reached the craziest part yet. According to the briefing note, there is a report, written by the Deputy Chief Fisheries Officer that “paints a picture of a non-functional complex that no longer meets the standards required for it to be used by fishermen.” It is dated April 30, 2018. More than two months ago! This revelation caught us by complete surprise. Who knew of this report? And, having ascertained that the complex was not up to standards, what was the plan? Everyone knew the date for the opening of the all-important lobster season, so why wasn’t this on the top of a lot of people’s priority list?

Essentially, everyone is fighting for a foul-smelling complex with sub-par security that is overrun by quadrupeds, harmful rodents, insects and flies; a place full of smelly, non-functioning freezers, and unclean water in two cisterns. Somewhere that will require time and thousands of dollars to fix before it can be returned to a functioning state. With that kind of review, how were the police and defense force personnel occupying the space? Beyond that, the Barbuda Council claims administrative authority but has no money, and central government seems to have disengaged to a large extent. So who is going to spend the time and money to bring it up to scratch?

Only in Antigua Barbuda!

View Documents here: https://antiguaobserver.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/cap-23.pdf

https://antiguaobserver.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/cap-44.pdf

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